Interview: Christopher Monks

Gameboy
By CLEA SIMON  |  January 15, 2009

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Christopher Monks will be speaking at the Brookline Booksmith January 22, 2009.
Ever feel you should earn points for remembering to get up in the morning? For getting a job, even if it's at the local Donut Shack? For getting laid? So does Christopher Monks. The Arlington-based humor writer first started sharing his somewhat arch view of the world on his blog, utterwonder.com, before becoming a contributor to McSweeney's Internet Tendency, which he now edits. His new book, The Ultimate Game Guide to Your Life: Or, the Video Game As Existential Metaphor (TOW Books), continues the laughs, even as it serves up the poignant tale of the game's hero as he makes his way through the obstacles of life.

How did you end up writing what amounts to a novel in the form of a video-game instruction book?
I was a third-grade teacher until 2001, when my wife and I had a baby and I became a stay-at-home dad. I would do two things while my son napped — he was a great napper: I would try to write, or I would play video games. And I thought, why can't I do both of these at the same time?

The other part was trying to figure out how to have the smoothest day possible — all the steps you had to go through to make it a stress-free day. I was playing adventure games at the time. And a lot of those games are step by step, you make mistakes and you go on. It's the same thing [with parenting]: I'd go to the grocery store and my son would be very pleasant and smile at everybody, and it would be a great trip because I'd made sure I changed his diaper. I made sure he had food. I made sure he had his binky. Made sure he had Mr. Teddy. Made sure we got the cart that was shaped like a rocket. . . . My initial idea, because I'd been writing a lot of short humor pieces, was that I would write one little scenario.

You mean a piece like your"Grand Theft Auto IV for the Environmentally Conscious Dad" on yankeepotroast.org?
Yeah, right! But for some reason, I never started it, but this guy John Warner, who was my predecessor at McSweeney's, he started this humor imprint [TOW Books], and he asked, do you have any good humor-book ideas in you? And for some reason, I thought of this.

For a humor book, this has a lot of sadness. I mean, it ends with death.
I wanted to write a funny book, but I wanted it to have some nuance as well. I think I've always been attracted to stuff that is funny and poignant, without being corny, and that's a hard thing to pull off. I wanted to show that you don't have to be a rock star or a baseball player to have a really satisfying and happy life. There are small moments, the little things. . . . I wanted to talk about that, but then I couldn't be funny funny funny all the time.

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